A Path-Analytic Study of Socio-Psychological Variables and Academic Performance of Distance Learners in Nigerian Universities.
The level of academic performance of distance learners in Nigerian universities has generated concern among stakeholders owing to the vital roles which distance learning programmes play in the overall educational development of the country. Several studies have been carried out on conventional students’ academic performance, but not much on distance learning students. This study, therefore, provided a causal explanation of distance learners’ academic performance through the analysis of the direct and the indirect effects of some students’ socio-psychological variables such as age, gender, disability status, employment status, marital status, self-efficacy, self-regulations, study habits, self-concept and attitude. The study adopted descriptive survey research design of the “ex-post facto” type. Four Universities approved by the National Universities Commission to run distance learning programmes were used for the study. Two thousand and three hundred participants were selected through purposive sampling technique. Five hundred and seventy-five respondents were selected from each of the four universities. Five instruments: Students’ Attitudes Towards Distance Learning Questionnaire (r =0.86), Distance Learners’ Self Efficacy Scale (r =0.75), Distance Learners’ Self Regulation Skills Scale (r = 0.68), Distance Learners’ Study Habits Inventory (r=0.65) and Distance Learners’ Self Concept Scale (r =0.75) were used to collect data. Five research questions were answered and five hypotheses tested at 0.05 level of significance. Path analysis was employed. The ten factors combined accounted for 3% of the total variance in distance learners’ academic performance. Out of this total effect, 2.98% was direct, while 0.02% was indirect. Factors that demonstrated direct effects were age (β=.14), attitudes (β=.07), self-regulations (β=.06) and disability status (β=.06). On the other hand, self-concept (β=.01), employment status (β=.02), gender (β=.02), study habits (β=.02), marital status (β=.03) and self-efficacy (β=.04) demonstrated indirect effects. Also, there were 23 significant and meaningful pathways (P<0.05) to distance learners’ academic performance: P111 (.144), P113 (.056), P117 (.062), P11110 (.070), P103 (.086), P107 (.158), P109 (.273), P93(.065), P96(.062), P98(.481), P81 (.140), P83 (.111), P84 (.054), P85 (.091), P86 (.211), P87(.247), P76(.382), P63(.085), P51(.525), P52(.061), P54(.127), P41(.411), and P43(.069). Furthermore, there were significant differences between disability status (t=2.39, df= 2298, P <0.05), marital status (t=2.31, df=2298, P <0.05) and mode of delivery (t=3.06, df=2298, P <0.05) on students’ academic performance. However, academic performance was not significantly different on the basis of gender and employment status. Age, attitudes towards distance learning, self-regulation skills and disability status predicted distance learners’ academic performance in Nigerian universities. Distance learning institutions should device a mechanism for keeping the students highly motivated throughout their programmes. Adequate facilities should also be provided for students with special needs who may be disadvantaged in the inclusive distance education system.